AMD Excavator; New Processor for Next Year

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AMD is looking to being a comeback in the desktop, mobile, and server realms and it starts next year with its Excavator cores. These cores are going to move to the desktop as Carrizo,, and to servers as Toronto.  These will be high-performance chips, designed to replace the existing single socket servers and high-end desktop APUs. AMD is pushing integration even further than it did with previous APUs, this time the parts will be true SoC’s.  Below are leaked server and desktop road maps.



We also know that these chips will have support for new instructions sets, finally catching up with Intel. Excavator will add support for AVX2, BMI2, MOVBE and RDRAND, and more importantly it appears they have done a massive redesign of the core.  According to AMD’s roadmap, if we believe it to scale, we might see a massive increase of 40% over the existing Steamroller cores.


And if we look at the unconfirmed leaked die shots of the Excavator core, and compare them to Piledriver and Steam Roller we can see that, if this leak is legitimate, a 40% increase may very well be true. The die-shot represents a striking change from the previous Steamroller module, the execution units have been doubled: double-wide FPU, 4 ALUs/AGUs per core. AVX2 support is pretty much guaranteed,  because Excavator is introducing a double-wide FPU to offer 16 FLOP per core (Bulldozer/Piledriver/Steamroller offer only 8 FLOP per core). Couple that with the possibility of two 256-bit FMAC units combining into one 512-bit FPU per module with FMA support, we are going to see a monster chip.

With the chip becoming bigger and more complex than Steamroller, it is possible however, that we will see a reduction in clocks. If we refer to the first roadmap linked in this article, the decision to move to a 65watt TDP pretty much confirms this. But if a 40% IPC increase isn’t greatly exaggerated, AMD will still have some room to catch up with Intel.  Excavator is also rumored to be on a different process node than Kaveri, but still at 28nm so we can expect that to play a role as well. Carrizo will be fabricated in GlobalFoundries GF28A process node, while Kaveri is on the 28 super high performance node.

In addition to an updated FPU, which was sorely needed, Carrizo will bring DDR4.  Since the iGPU in Kaveri is starved for memory bandwidth, this is a very important step for mobile systems which rely on the iGPU. In addition to increased bandwidth, DDR4 also brings lower power consumption, between 1.05–1.2 V for DDR4, compared to 1.2–1.65 V for DDR3. 

Not all the news is good though. In order to fit a larger FPU, a full Fusion Control Hub (south bridge), dual memory controllers, more GCN cores, and other enhancements, all on a similar fabrication process, AMD had to cut PCI-E lanes.  This move harms both servers and the desktop, and will be interesting to see how it pans out.

All in all, I think we can expect big things coming from AMD, if not with Excavator, but with Sky Bridge. 


Nicholas Fusco

Nick Fusco is a young IT Consultant and "geek"! As a contributing author on GBD, he covers all things tech and writes reviews for a variety of products and services.

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  1. hieb July 16, 2014 at 3:39 am

    Interesting. Although I take the forecasts of IPC improvement with just a dash of salt, as we heard the same things about Steamroller (speculation was that Steamroller would have IPC somewhere between Nehalem and Sandy Bridge)… but it instead just came neck and neck with Nehalem in IPC.

    I’m really hoping they cover some ground, because right now in the desktop market they don’t have anything too succulent. The FX-6300, 8320 and 8350 are still appealing to budget system builders, but cache latency and poor single-threaded performance still hold them back from being as competitive as their Intel counterparts in terms of performance (maybe still yielding better performance per dollar).

    I’m going to be building soon… and I’m torn between getting an FM2+ board and an Athlon just as a placeholder until Excavator, and sinking the extra $150 for an entry-level i5 system.

    HSA isn’t all that interesting to me, since I don’t see it becoming hugely useful for gaming (my primary time sink)… I imagine HSA is geared more towards workloads that don’t demand minimal latency, such as video encoding.

    But if we get i5-2500K performance from Excavator, I’ll be happy. The A10-7850K comes dangerously close to an i5-2400… if only they had released SKUs without iGP such as the Athlon 750K and 760K that accompanied the A10-5800K and 6800K respectively, because while the 7850K’s computing abilities are of interest, the $200 price tag (due to the iGP) diminishes this, putting it in the price range of the i5-4430.

    • Nicholas Fusco July 16, 2014 at 8:39 am

      Yea, I absolutely agree. I went with Intel this go-around and bought a 4670k. It’s sad to see that AMD is so far behind.

  2. Ed September 28, 2014 at 3:22 am

    I wouldn’t get my hopes up for a 40% IPC increase. A few reasons:

    1) The graph says “performance”, not IPC. This could, for instance, be throughput per watt. As in the desktop roadmap, they seem to have dropped the 95 watt option, meaning that actual performance might not increase by 40%.
    2) It is a forecast, made in 2011 or 2012, even before the pc business slowed down a bit (I think that was in 2013). It could be that they had to cut features since.
    3) Whether the die shot is of Excavator is still up in the air (as is whether it’s real at all). Excavator is supposed to used high-density libraries, for instance, which would mean that in the die shots you wouldn’t be able to see all these clear structures, probably. It should be more like Jaguar: Also, there’s no official confirmation that it’s Excavator – the image just appeared on the internet one day.
    4) A 40% increase in IPC is a huge amount. Intel is struggling to squeeze even 10 – 15 % out every two years, and their research budged eclipses that of AMD. It just doesn’t seem to be feasible.
    5) The presentation graph is just that – a graph in a presentation. I don’t think the ones who made it spent time aligning the pictures just so that it’s exactly representative of the expected performance. Probably it was just meant to look good.

    What Excavator will be like though… I honestly have no clue. The chip should be launched a couple of months from now, and there still is very little info available, which I find odd. Perhaps more official info is coming soon?

    One last thing: I’m a bit confused about whether or not Excavator supports DDR4. The roadmap says no, but other people say yes, and AMD already has products with a DDR4 controller in it. Wouldn’t it need a new FCH for DDR4? Regardless, one fantastic feature for the IGPU is the new compression technique, as seen in Tonga. This will alleviate some of the bandwidth bottleneck on its own, even if they stick with DDR3.

  3. Matjaz Zivko October 14, 2014 at 11:23 am

    It’s sad to see how the AMD team belives their latest desktop Igpu’s are at least priceworthy. They *khm* aren’t since there is a steady price drop in the discrete gpu section regarding performance.

    I’m pointig this out because i would really like to see more effort put into 8 core desktop cpu’s which could sell above Intel’s i5 np (with some regards from game devs ofc.).

  4. dave November 8, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    On the other hand AMD certainly has the igpu buttoned down tight ,and though not quite up to intel cpu power which is understandable since the igpu takes up 47% of the die while intel igpu take up much less space for igpu usage
    also HSA and all the goodies that come with the AMD chip that Intel lacks and I have to say kaveri more than caught up to Intel
    the day AMD catches up fully to Intel is the the day they do it using less die spoace due to above mentioned igpu foot print
    excavator marks the last piece of the puzzle the ground work is done next comes core ZEN that is when the igpu meets full bandwidth power
    Frankly CPU power is more than ample in any AMD product as well the breakthroughs in Computing won’t be found in the cpu but in the igpu that is where the power to compute will come from
    AMD is now finished the grouind work wirth Excavator what comes next is the future
    Don’t expect anything special coming from Intel on the cpu side they are up against the wall there is very little that can be further
    had on the cpu side the paltry 5% that they flesh out of the cpu isn’t going to change the world of computing
    When ZEN comes I suspect the APU will be able to perform quite nicely I expect excavator will get a 30% increase in efficiency
    and the Igpu will be able to do a considerable amount more by the time ZEN comes the zen apu will be capable of remarkable
    feats especially the IGPU portion
    those that have written off AMD are deluded they are just getting started the ground work is done

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